You were not at all what I was expecting when I slipped into the chapel for the noonday service at our small university. I’d heard about you, was even in a class with you (although I’d not yet noticed you). But I’d never had a conversation with you. The place was packed, and when you went to the platform, I thought you were just there to give an introduction to the “real” speaker for the hour. But, was I ever wrong about that.
You were definitely the preacher for the hour.
You gave one of the most powerful and Spirit-anointed messages I had ever heard. You preached from Jude’s final four verses. And I wept. I wept because God spoke. I left that chapel longing for more of Him. That’s one thing I’ve always loved about sitting under your preaching—it consistently takes me to the Savior and fuels my love for Him rather than putting my focus on you.
That was the first time I ever heard you preach. That is my first memory of you. That chapel service is a place I enjoy visiting—it takes me back to the early and fresh beginnings of what would grow into a long-lasting love. That was almost forty years ago and oh, how very different our lives are now than when we spent that hour in the noonday chapel service.
Those fresh beginnings have matured into a golden season of deep and lasting love. And although this season is painful and hard—I would rather be here in the pain with you than in a world of comfort without you.
We had a long season of marital misery and hopelessness. But, thankfully, God worked on my hard heart. He dramatically changed me. He gave you hope and courage to lead my fierce self, and we’ve lived in the gift of that beautiful love relationship for more than two decades now. How grateful I am for that amazing grace.
But almost five years ago now, you started having weird symptoms, the “yuckyness” is what we used to call it, remember? And we started down a mysterious and quite unexpected trail, that turned into the hardest journey yet. We never would’ve chosen this for what our final season would look like. This would not be the story we would’ve written for ourselves. We had dreams and plans of doing ministry together until our last breath.
It never occurred to either of us that you might be sidelined physically and unable to continue pastoring.
We naively assumed that you would live out your years with the longevity and health that your parents, and both sets of grandparents, all enjoyed. You’ve always been my strong, athletic man who could do anything. In the early days of young love, we never could have imagined that you would struggle each day with pain, dragging one leg along—like a dead weight—as you attempt to navigate your way through this strange life.
This is not the life we would’ve chosen, but you are a far greater man than I realized when I first married you, and even knowing how hard this season would be, I would chose you all over again.
Thank you for giving me the daily example of what it looks like to battle for joy while enduring continual pain. Thank you for being the man of God you are—never complaining, trusting in God’s sovereign choosing of this as our way to glorify Him, starting your mornings in the Word and prayer, faithfully interceding for me and for others even while you are suffering.
You characterize for me the reality of Amy Carmichael’s poem: “In acceptance, lieth peace.”
Although we discuss the puzzling state of what we’re enduring right now, you always readily assure me that even in this dark season—God has a plan. And although our ministry looks much different than we thought it would, we are finding new ways to try to minister to others.
Your ministry of prayer is quiet, no one but me is really aware of it (well, now I guess the blog readers are, too) but it is a behind-the-scenes form of ministry that is effectual and of great value. Your determination to press on, is a ministry to others who are weary and provides motivation for them to press on as well. As they watch your response and see you pushing yourself to continue on, fighting for joy and depending on grace for perseverance, it provides an encouraging example for them. Your worship is sincere, not an emotional “high” produced because you’re soaking up your “best life now.” But your worship, while suffering and battling, gives evidence to the reality of the Savior you so faithfully follow.
And you minister to me. As I watch you day in and day out remain the same faithful man of God—more mature than the young buck who “preached the stars down” in that noonday service so many years ago—it provides for me a true picture of sincere love.
Wendell Barry captures my thoughts well: “I am blessed and choose again—that which I chose before.”
I would always choose you again, my dear husband who I admire with all my heart. I choose you and am so thankful you chose me.